Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Found This on a Sticky Note

Apparently I felt the need to make note of this. WTF, self?

P.S. Aren't you glad I don't handwrite my blogs?

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Is anyone else feeling like adulthood is an anticlimax? You suppose and hypothesize and conceptualize and prepare and way-find, and when you've finally made it, when you've completed, at last, the herculean trek from whining to wining, all you've got to show for it is a paycheck and a stand mixer.

I mean, seriously?

Yesterday, after tea, a quick run, and 500 words of the latest writing project, I got to work. I drove from one side of the city to the other, tackled a small child escaping through the hole in grandma's fence, played endless games of ready-set-go, squealed when another kiddo at long last imitated a car horn, and filled out paperwork. I stopped into Target, exchanged a poorly-fitting shirt for some sparkling water and $8. I went home, wrote some program notes, answered some emails, practiced, and did an hour of disgruntled yoga. My obligations discharged, I attended a friend's 15-minute Taiko drumming performance, hit up the neighborhood gumbo truck, and watched Burn After Reading.

It's not that it was a bad day. It was, all in all, a pretty fair day. I worked half a day at each of my jobs, earned some $, put in some time on my hobby, exercised, ran errands, and recreated. It's more that this day looks pretty dang similar to the day before, the day after, and the day after that.

I miss anticipation. I miss living with the understanding that you're moving toward something, that you're a breath away, that you're crescendoing. I miss the tremulous possible, the feeling that, if you set your ear to the skin of now, you can hear tomorrow's heart's tattoo.

Seventh-Day Adventism never looked so good.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Splinter, Hunger, Funk

You get better, with age, at figuring out what's wrong with you.

Sometimes I think that's what "wisdom" boils down to: the ability to divine, ever more efficiently, the source of your disgruntlement. It could be physical, mental, existential, or a direct result of watching too much VH1, but as you accumulate birthdays you get faster at winkling it out and nailing it down.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a corresponding uptick in your ability to mount a quick and effective response. Partly this is because it's though to beat the catch-all "WAAAAAAAAAAH" of the newborn or the apocalyptic fervor of the toddler's campaign to acquire a happy meal. But mainly this is just because some problems -particularly knotty adult problems- are tough to solve. It may be incumbent on you to try, but there's no guarantee you'll succeed.

So here's what's wrong with me:

(OK, OK, I know the following is a gross reduction of all my fascinatingly intricate deficiencies, but a girl's gotta start somewhere)

I'm lonely.

(I'm also mildly ill with a head cold, scared of moving forward in several key areas of my life, nursing a scraped right elbow, and unable to live in the moment, but the loneliness is what's at the top of the pile right now.)

It took me a while to figure it out, because I've generally, these last six weeks, been surrounded by people. I see people at church, people at work, neighbors on the street, and random people I meet for lunch because I'm trying to build my social network. I'm also married, which means, for those of you who are still savoring the halcyon days of single living, that there's someone else around pretty much ALL THE TIME.

Nevertheless, I'm lonely. A recounting of my symptoms:

I see the faces of old friends in crowds
I dream of airplanes, shaky flights from Alaska, layovers in DC.
I Google old friends
I am hangdog, drained, gray
I don't want to talk to anyone

Richmond is full of very nice people, many of whom I'd call friendly acquaintances and one or two of whom I'd even call friends. But there are friends and there are friends, folks you are happy to see on the street versus the people who help you clean up after your toilet has overflowed. I miss you, shit-stirrers.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

To Market

The fact that there is a farmers' market within walking distance of my house is one of the salves of my new location. It almost, but not quite, makes up for the fact that the sky smells off, the vowels taste wrong, and the air is rotten with myrtle. There's no place like home, and I am not there. But at least I can market!

The market is dinky, dominated by craft stalls that stock wares of distressing inedibility. But there are a few vegetable stands, and, after I have fumed over the stomach-clogging baby hats, the schlocky silver earrings-cum-esophageal lances of death, I pick out some peppers and okra and arugula and call it a day.

Mostly, though, I savor the walk. It is late Tuesday afternoon. The sun is high but slightly deflated, like a balloon the day after a birthday party. I walk down the tree-lined main drag of my neighborhood, cross a big street, head past the old folks home toward the park. Just before the trees close in and the road peters out, an exit ramp arcs above me. There's a pocket of space on either side of this underpass, just big enough for a man to lie down.

A man does lie down there. I assume he's homeless. Why else would you, your foot-long beard, two camp chairs, a sleeping bag, and assorted paraphernalia hang out under the bridge 24/7? Sometimes, when I pass by, he is sleeping. But mostly he sets up his camp chair and surveys his domain, or strolls up and down the dead-end road.

I used to approach with trepidation. There are no cars down that way, and very few other pedestrians. And my experience with the homeless includes agressive pandhandlers and the crazy dude who grabbed and then shoved me toward the rails on an NYC subway platform. But after a few pass-throughs, I grasped that under-the-bridge man didn't want money. He didn't want to hustle people, and he wasn't interested in shoving or grabbing. What he wanted was to talk about the weather.

Beautiful day we're having. Nothing like a walk! Or, Look at those clouds. Maybe we'll get some rain soon. Or, Wow, it's hot! They say it's a drought. He had a wizened grin, a tanned face, and small eyes. I'd say something about the weather in return, and pass on. Behind me I could hear him start up the spiel with the next person.

Weather: the great equalizer. You can live under a bridge, in an apartment, in a Victorian mansion, and you still care about the clouds, the wetness, the first nip of chill in the air. You care about the currents of air, the transfer of heat, the onset of damp. You care if it's summer or winter, snowing or sere. It's the last great shared obsession. And it is wondrous.

It takes a long time for fall to work up steam down here, but a few nights ago I woke for the first time in a long time searching for a blanket. It was chilly on the porch this morning. The sun keeps rising a few heartbeats later each day. It's almost, but not quite, summer's end.

At market they are selling butternut squash and onions. My weatherman is gone. There's no trace of his things under the bridge, and I haven't seen him in weeks. I wonder where he went, how he'll weather the change.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Get While the Getting's Gullible

Hoooo boy!

If you are enrolled in a graduate degree program, have been enrolled in a graduate degree program, or are thinking about enrolling in a graduate degree program, y'all should read this one. The thesis (academics love their theses) is simple: Higher education is a ponzi scheme.

As a double-strength faculty brat (psychology and journalism, in case you were wondering), this is heresy. According to the family gospel, you Go Forth, Interest Yourself (morbidly) in something arcane, write a thesis on said arcana, score a tenure track job straight out of grad school, get tenure, then toil for 40 years before retiring (early) on a cushy retirement package. And, in fact, this is exactly what my folks have done.

But times change. And when I think about degree programs such as the MFA in creative writing, the MM and DMA in early music, and the PhD in musicology (all of which I've thought, fleetingly, of pursuing), I conclude that the casualness with which institutions of higher learning accept new students in these ever-narrowing, ever more harrowing fields is, well....criminal.

It's a pyramid scheme! Professors need students to justify their existence. Students -qualified only to replicate themselves- need more students in their turn. Everyone passes the buck! And the problem just keeps getting worse: more and more students, fewer and fewer jobs. A friend of mine just landed one of only 37 musicology professorships available worldwide this year (to hundreds and hundreds of qualified PhDs).

It's a one year gig. Visiting professorship, half salary. And she is a lucky, lucky dog.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

May 12, 2009

Lately, I've been missing you. Not in the sense of wishyouwerehere. That's picture postcard missing, the kind of missing you execute casually, like a legal U-turn or the gradual drifting of your vehicle from the freeway into the exit lane.

I don't, actually, wish you were here.

What would you do here, anyway? You have no place in my day-to-day life. I don't have the facilities for you; I don't meet your requirements. You've never seen where I live, or who I married, or anything of mine, other than a handful of poems. These you read gimlet-eyed, an editor to the dregs of yourself.

You have no place in anyone's daily life but your own.

Which is why I wish I were there, in your house. Your house, the vital organ. For decades, it sustained you: the careful arrangement of the books under the trio of skylights, the shelf of pots next to the stove. You harvested the garden when it was time, walked down to the bay when it was time, sat and stared at the sea when it was time. The house filtered the poisons of the world. It beat time. Its chambers were choked with breath.

Instead of the house, I think about blueberries. They were all up and down the back of the place. Every morning, you would turn away from them, head into the study to write. Writing made you angry. They no longer made the typewriter ribbon you needed. In order to repair your machine, you drove hours to Bangor down the coastal roads. You decried planned obsolescence: it was a conspiracy, our appliances rising up against us! Dying pissed you off royally. There was work left. There were words left.

I abandoned you there. I dragged an old tin bucket out from underneath the sink and wandered down toward the shore. There were berries the whole way down, constellations of berries, galaxy after galaxy of berries, the earth a stubborn sky. I picked as many as I could get my hands on. There were always more, some deep blue, some covered in a milky caul. Presently, my fingers ached. The dark came drifting down.

At exactly nine PM they'd read a poem the radio. You'd be in the kitchen, waiting. I wandered in and dropped my bucket. You set your hand to the rim.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 3

1) Remove kitten from washing machine
2) Remove kitten from bathroom trash can
3) Remove kitten from underwear drawer
4) Remove kitten from fallen pile of DVDs
5) It's your own fault, kitten
6) Remove kitten from breakfast
7) Attn: kittens. Mewing & stealth mutually exclusive
8) Remove kitten from three-inch wide space behind stove
9) Who pooped on the rug?!
10) Remove kitten from washing machine
11) Wash rug
12) Remove kitten from skirt
13) Kittens make me hungry
14) Remove snack from refrigerator
13) Remove kitten from refrigerator
14) Remove kitten from snack
15) Eat like a speed demon
16) Sleep

Saturday, September 4, 2010


I just went to type "currently" and typed "kurrently." Behold the power of kitten!

I'm hosting two of them for the weekend. They are grey and small and egregious. Moreover, they are interested.

They are interested in the dripping of the tap. They are interested in my glass of water. They are interested in feet and cardboard boxes and the spaces behind the stove and under the dresser and the corners of newspapers and laser pointers and tails and laundry baskets and canned goods and tea and eyeglasses and drawers and instruments and plastic bags. So far, pursuant to their investigations, they have knocked over two plants, a coffee mug, an alarm clock, half of the mixing bowls, the aforementioned laundry basket and, just now, the DVD remote.

They make me tired.

They also make me -only a little mind you; there are too many tradeoffs, like being unable to type and having to subsist on kibble- jealous. How many of the miracles of my daily life -the teapots, the couch cushions, the faucet, the interstitial space between the cabinet and the wall- do I pass over without a second thought? How long has it been since I've thought my toes worthy of entrancement? My bread worth of an orgy of sniffing?

Go to it, kittens. Maybe I'll learn something. At the very least maybe y'all will get tired enough to let me sleep.